tv Reel America CSPAN December 5, 2015 3:30pm-3:59pm EST
of her coverage from the historic area including behind-the-scenes tour is of the custom-designed center. all is american history tv, we can, every weekend, on c-span3. beginning october 19, 1965 and continuing for five weeks, the battle of ia drang was in the words of walter concord, the biggest, the costliest, the most insignificant phot by american troops in vietnam. a cd is new special report on the battle, originally broadcast on november 30, 1965. ♪ walter: three months ago, the first air division shipped off from north carolina. proud, sure of themselves, they
were destined for the high country of central vietnam. last week, some of them came home. their lives were the proof of victory in ia drang valley. cbs news correspondent morley safer was there. morley: this is where it all began, the special forces camp. on the night of october 19 at 11:00 p.m., the first mortar rounds fell. at the beginning, it was sibley another guerrilla attack -- simply another guerrilla attack. but then, command decisions were made, almost by accident, that
turned the battle into the campaign for not only the highlands, but perhaps all of the vietnam. the battle of -- announcer: the battle of ia drang valley, introduced by morley safer with a special commentary by walter cronkite. walter: good evening. the american people resulted by an announcement, the average weekly date of the dead and wounded in the vietnam war exceeded the korean war. 240 americans were killed and 470 were wounded. the american people did not know then as they do now. this is a full war against a formidable enemy. most of these casualties were suffered in the battle of the ia drang valley, the biggest, the costliest, and the largest group of troops sent to vietnam.
walter cronkite --morley safer covers his coverage in the past year. this sets a new standard for war reporting in the age of television. morley? morley: thank you, walter. this emphasized one single point, tell us about it. morley: we are at war not only with the viet cong, but at war with a devastating army. full war declarations are not necessary. ahead, even higher casualties, a point that every troop and every general in vietnam is acutely aware of, something that is not fully grasped at home. in this program, we will not try to give the order of battles.
what we will try to do is give the mood and the feel of those five weeks. it all started at pleime. it was almost by accident. it looked at first like a routine vietnam attack. this was an outpost in the central highlands held by a handful of american advisers and 350 mountain tribesmen. as it turned out, this was a new kind of attack i in new kind of army. as was a full-scale, sustained assault by two heavily armed regiments aimed at wiping pleime off the map and sucking american troops into an ambush. this is what stopped them from doing it, american air power. the north vietnamese attacked, and our fighter-bombers roared in with guns blazing. there was a ring of deadly fire.
there was a heavier consecration of -- never a heavier concentration of tactical air fire had ever been used in the vietnam war. yet still they came, the communist determined that pleime must be destroyed, the united states determined that it would not. these troops continue to storm the camp program at her, and we were shooting them will write off of the wires, said one pilot -- camp perimeter, and "we were shooting them right off of the wires," said one pilot. some people were wounded by shrapnel from our bombs exploding just yards away. there was no sleep, no rest, no water. helicopters were hit as they tried to land with supplies and get the wounded out. two helicopters and other planes were downed by heavy antiaircraft fire. but help is on its way. after three days, the south
vietnamese airborne troops were headed this way. and from 25 miles away, the south vietnamese set out by road. along that road, the viet cong were waiting. just five miles from pleime, the viet the mise -- the self enemies were ambushed, but they fought back. they quickly got heavy casualties. the north vietnamese achieved one objective, attacking of the forces for more than 24 hours. allied casualties were light,
but pleime was difficult for us, too. one of the american advisers at the camp was major charles beckwith of atlanta, georgia. what kind of fighters are the viet cong that you met here? major beckwith: i would give anything to have 200 of them under my command, they are the widest soldiers i have ever seen. morley: the viet cong? major beckwith: yes, they are very good. morley: what about your own resistance that you put up a. major beckwith: the u.s. is here and as far as i am concerned, they did an outstanding job. of course, in my opinion, they are held in a lot better opinion than the vc. morley: for the defenders of pleime, the battle is over, but for the first air cavalry
division, it was just beginning. pleime was the jumping off point for a new kind of operation against a new kind of enemy. the original mission of the cavalry was to secure the immediate area around pleime. the first few days of search and destroy operations, they met only light resistance, light fire. they moved further west toward the can't -- towards the cambodian border. they met over here in the chu pong hills. then they met the people pop -- people's army of north vietnam. >> i think the thing that is new is this concept where we leap into an area and start a fight and finish it up to the best of our abilities and then we get another chunk of the enemy and shoot him.
you couldn't get into the area on the ground you had to have -- ground, you had to have an to support what we are doing. morley: i was thinking of previous missions, and the area was all about gaining ground. brig. gen. knowles: yes, and it is all about also destroyed the will to fight. we have been doing that in the tradition, but that was never the real purpose. here, we can take those ground considerations, and we go forth directly towards the enemy, wherever he may be. morley: the first requirement of the cavalry is air ability. on november 1, the heelys -- the hueys moved down and the airborne riflemen moved down.
the tactic is a simple, find them, fix them, and kill them. with the north vietnamese dead, 21 killed, casually tease -- killed, casualties, nil. ultimately, a landing zone is needed. a landing zone is any flat patch of ground that can land a helicopter, and if there isn't one, you make one. enemy casualties amounted. 300 dead, 115 prisoners, friendly cavities were described as light. our weapon was mobility. here is the command post. >> 1, 6, 5, over.
morley: the cavalry was changing. then just inside the cambodian border, the communist's luck turned. -- communists' luck turned. >> this is 3 3, and you have to walk a long way and have a lot of people get killed. [explosions] morley: with their back to the enemies, the north vietnamese regulars were waiting behind fortified bunkers. the enemies through mortar rounds into the landing zone, but the cavalry stood its ground. for the first time in the vietnam war, the americans'
casualities were described as moderate. most of the casualties were taken at night. captain guy kinsey was one of the pilots. captain kinsey: we didn't have any moon, so without anything to go by, we were counting on a couple of casualties. we managed to get them on board, and two people i carried in there to help evacuate in the aircraft right away and started returning air fire. and there was a lot of fire around that and i was scared. so with the rest of my crew. morley: by the dawn of the 15th, it was clear that the enemy had been hurt badly, but we had paid dearly. it was almost like looking at old newsreels of korea in the pacific war, the same younger faces, the same shattered a landscapes, the same agony.
>> it was pretty bad. we kind of walked right into an ambush. and we hit -- we hit the ground. we try to look around for trees or tall grass out there, about three foot high, and to look over that, the snipers could pick you up really easily. >> doesn't it frighten you now to think about it? -- does it frighten you now to think about it? >> yes it does. and it is terrible not to be able to cry for help another have your friends do a thing. we were all pinned down, you know? >> are you writing home about it does now? -- just now? i'm writing my father right now, trying to give him the facts.
>> do you think you will ever forget it? >> no, i won't. >> the worst was still to come. all the time, a steady pounding by sky raters and jet bombers. and darkness, the communist regulars drop. they decide to pull back, not to retreat, but to make room for planes of a strategic air command. these bombers have been used in
technical support.--tactical support. the deadliest war machine in the world is going up against the guerrilla army. [gunfire] as the bombers came in, they were selecting new landing zones, looking for open spaces in the vast carpet of woodland that covers the hills and valleys of central vietnam. they found them, surrounded by thick grass they can wear a man out within 500 yards of walking. it is country designed for ambush, guerrilla country. it is where the communist army of ho chi minh first attacked
the government of the french. two weeks ago tonight, they waited around landing zone x-ray. a lot of 20-year-old speaking veterans that afternoon. --20-year-old's became veterans that afternoon. >> we were bringing up the rear. they really let us have it. >> i heard them, and they surprised us. we couldn't see them. there were a lot of snipers in the area. they just kept dropping on us. one right after another. >> the remnants of the alpha company first battalion seventh cavalry. the bullets were coming from everywhere, they said, they were right on top of us.
one machine gunner told me how they fought back. >> we have 3000 rounds of ammo and 30 hand grenades. we burned about three barrels in this machine gun. >> how many do you think you killed? >> i say around 40 or 50. may be even more. -- maybe even more. >> the americans and north vietnamese lay side-by-side in the grass. enemy face each other only a few feet apart. by their own admission, these men fox not to defend a perimeter or a position, they fought for their own lives.
a lot of americans died in these woodlands. overall, an important point was made. u.s. infantryman, using established technique and ingenuity, can seek out and destroy the best guerrilla army in the world. the commander and chief, william c west moreland. >> i want to congratulate you on your distinguished victory. you are fighting regular north vietnamese troops. you have distinguished yourselves. you fought bravely. you fought with skill. >> it is a funny thing. some of these men i've known for
a long time. some of them, i did not know too well. that is the thing about battle i find strange. the death part is unrealistic. you know it is true, but you don't bring yourself to believe it. >> the hardest part is trying to forget the death of your buddies. i've lost 28 men. i knew some friends of mine that went to the same university. >> is it hard for you now to believe that they are dead so quickly? >> well, when you look at them,
it doesn't even resemble a human body. it's like a mannequin. you look at them and say, that could happen to me. it is hard to realize. you walk back to their area, back to the camp, and they are just not there. >> well, i tell you, it is hard to put it in words. it was like hell. it is the closest to hell you can get and come back alive. >> what would you say is the most hellish part? >> getting shot out and sing the boat hit and miss you. seeing your buddy get it. when you see some of the out there and you cannot get to them and you cannot do a thing to help them. >> this is the enemy. in the past few weeks, i spoke to dozens through interpreters.
some have spent months walking to bases in the south, carrying weapons bigger than themselves. in battle, they showed maniacal courage or motivation. by weeks, the campaign had ended. a search brigade found little but thin air. according to william lynch. >> the last 24 hours, they have not fired a shot. >> the casualties in the vietnam war have been heavy. in the past four years, the south vietnamese had lost almost 27,000 men in battle. last weekend alone, almost 1000. american casualties have been relatively light up until now. on thanksgiving morning, americans picked up newspapers to find, aside the usual thanks giving picture, headlines
announcing the casualties in did not wear the highest ever. 240 dead, 470 wounded. if brought the severity of the battle into every home. the total was three times higher than any previous week of the war. the enemies losses to wear higher than ever. 2000 killed. >> we've made estimates. we've thought that in this type of country and tough and the hand fighting, we would have a ratio of losses to kills. we've done better than that. i don't like to trade one american or trooper for 50 of them, but realistically, in this type of fighting, you get anywhere between 7:1 to 10:1. that's a good exchange.
>> those who know him well know with what heavy heart each decision is made to send americans into combat. that grief is not a feeling that can be turned on or off. it is there whether the casualty list is 2 or 200. i've seen the president previously but privately concerned. >> for every body, there is a next of kin. for every next of kin, a telegram. the secretary of the army has asked me to express his deep regret that your husband died in vietnam on the 14 november, 1965.
>> we heard them say that they will bury us. if they take over one country at a time, all over the world, the little countries will be taken over. he said, i would rather go now then wait until 20 years and have my son go. it might be too late in 20 years. and he told me, before he left, he told me to sit down. i said don't cry, because you've got to know this. it's better if you know. you won't have a total decision to make. it want you to know that we have spent most of our marriage in columbus. two of our children have been born here. i would like to be buried here in case anything happens. i want to be wherever you would live.
a lot of men died, but strategically, it was a victory. >> i characterize this entire campaign is being the most successful of this conflict thus far. its success is unprecedented. >> we are seeing americans come to grips with large-scale the enemies units. is is going to be a pattern of the war? >> it seems evident that the leadership in hanoi has sent down to south vietnam regular forces. how many more, we do not know. >> it was a bitter and valuable experience. it taught us the value of mobility in fighting a guerrilla war. it has also pointed out the brutal fact that hanoi intends to commit a filled army to
vietnam. communists are massing in south vietnam, and so are we. they feel we are divided. there impressed by student demonstrations. in hanoi, a student is a rare and honored member of society. the enemy knows he cannot defeat us in the field, but by killing americans, he hopes to demoralize us at home. that is what happened to france in 1954. our armed forces are willing to take necessary casualties to seek out and destroy the enemy. the question remains, are the american people willing to lose more and more young men in vietnam? ♪ >> this has been a cbs news special report, the battle of ia drang valley.
>> this prerecorded broadcast was produced under the supervision and control of cbs news. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] bookshelf history features popular history writers and airs on american history tv every weekend. next, danielle mcguire discusses the lives of women during the civil rights movement. this december marks the 60th anniversary of rosa parks' .efusal to give up her seat she examines racial and sexual violence experienced by african-american women in the segregated south year she crit